Euler Math Toolbox: An interview with René Grothmann

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Rene Grothmann

Rene Grothmann

Today we share with you an interview with René Grothmann, the developer of the Euler Math Toolbox a software environment for interactive numerical computations. Euler is similar to FreeMat or MatLab, but it has its own take on how to do things. One interesting feature is that it creates 3D stereograms that require 3D glasses. I found this project way back in the 90′s and I am happy to see it is still going strong.

F4S: Hello René. Please, give us a brief introduction about yourself.

René: First, let me thank for your interest in Euler Math Toolbox. I appreciate all web journals or blogs that collect and offer information about the many open source projects in existence.

I am a professor for mathematics at the Catholic University of Eichstätt, Germany. My main research interests are in the field of complex approximation. In this field, I have done teaching and research for more than 25 years now.

Due to my software and numerical analysis classes, I have always been inclined to programming, numerical programming, and especially software for schools. This is more an investment into the future when computers will be omnipresent in the schools, and even on the desk of each student. I see that the future is beginning right now.

My other big project is C.a.R. – Compass and Ruler – a geometry program, which is widely used in schools around the world, and caused cooperation with the I2Geo project funded by the EU, and other dynamical geometry people around the world.

F4S: What is Euler?

René: Euler is a numerical laboratory for easy and interactive computations of numerical or statistical kind, exact mathematics with interval arithmetic, graphical representation of results, which also contains a symbolic subsystem thanks to Maxima, a well known computer algebra project. Euler contains a matrix language for real, complex, or interval matrices. It can be programmed using a Basic like programming language. Exports include various graphics formats, and HTML.

Much of this sounds more or less like Matlab, but Euler is different and has an independent, though similar language. I have never used Matlab extensively. With Euler, I tried to provide a nicer interface, and an easier syntax.

Euler interface

Euler interface

F4S: Why and when did Euler came to be?
René: Euler originated in 1987 for the Atari ST, and has been developed and growing since that time. The first ports were to OS/2 and Unix. The modern interface, which also includes symbolic features, has been programmed for Windows. It can be emulated in Linux using Wine with only minor restrictions.

F4S: In which languages and platforms is the project developed?

René: The numerical core of Euler is in C, with the C++ extended syntax. The GUI is programmed in C++, but using the Windows API, not the MS foundation classes, since these classes came into existence only later.

A huge part of Euler is written in the Euler programming language itself. Euler contains an advanced Basic dialect for this.

F4S: Does Euler have sponsors?

René: Euler is sponsored by the Catholic University of Eichstätt. I am grateful that they let me work on this project.

F4S: How is the university supporting the project?

René: There is not direct money support, only support in terms of my working conditions.

F4S: How many users you estimate Euler have?

René: I cannot estimate the number of users in schools or universities. In any case, every new user is welcome, and will receive support.

Use 3D glasses to see the full visual effect of this plot

F4S: Do you know where is Euler used?

René: Euler is widely used in engineering classes in some technical universities in Germany. Euler is also used by students all around the world.

F4S:How many team members does the project have?

René: Since Euler contains Maxima, there are numerous team members, so to speak.

But the Euler core is the work of a single mathematician. However, Euler uses many numerical algorithms from the open source community, Examples are the LPSOLVE package, which has been ported for Euler by their developers, or the LSODA algorithm.

F4S: In what areas of Euler development do you currently need help?

René: To make a program like Euler useful, the most important help is in terms of web pages related to Euler, providing examples, giving hints, and offering support. I would also be grateful for open algorithms in C that could be useful for Euler.

F4S: How can people get involved with the project?

René: Simply start using it, and offer your results on your web page. I will be glad to link to your pages. Euler has a very nice web export for its notebooks.

F4S: What features are in the roadmap?

René: It would be nice to have a Java interface to the Euler core, instead of the Windows interface. This would allow to run Euler natively on Linux, Macs or other systems. It is a major work, however.

But the short term goals are improvements of the already very nice documentation, examples, and the extension of the user community.

F4S: Which projects, blogs or sites related to open source software for science can you recommend?

René: Maxima, of course. They are doing a nice job. But I feel they need help in terms of user experience and GUIs.

F4S: Why do you consider free/libre open source software important for the advancement of your field?

René: I consider not only open source software all important for the modern world, but also open publication. It turns out that closed software is hindering quick development. In fact, my impression is that technology is processing faster than user experience and usability. A community of free-time developers or small companies could speed up the process considerably. This does also apply to scientific progress, by the way.

However, we need to face the problems of open source. One is fragmentation, as we see on the Android or the PC market versus Apple’s IOS market. On the other side an open system provides a chance for small companies or free developer teams to market applications. I think that the best idea would be a free and open scientific background, and a free or non-free market on top of that. An example would be a friendly user interface for Linux, or an Android device. In science, it would be the production and marketing of a pill based on open scientific information.

F4S: Is there any other topic you would like our readers to know about?

René: Governments should be aware that restrictive funding of universities hinders open development. What we are facing now is the pressure to patent and sell, even for public universities.

F4S: Where people can contact you and learn more about Euler?

René: The starting page is always

F4S: Thank you René for sharing with us more about you and Euler.

René: You are most welcome!

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